Islamic State’s appeal presents Jordan with new test
He had a good job and a loving family, but it wasn’t enough for a 25-year old Jordanian who abandoned his life of privilege in Amman to join the Islamic State group that has seized swathes of neighbouring Iraq and Syria.
Handsome, courteous and highly regarded in his profession as a radiologist, the man, whose name has been withheld for security reasons, disappeared in early August after the Muslim Eid holiday. He did not tell his family where he was going.
He later called his parents from an undisclosed location to say he had “forsaken his life for the glory of Islam”, said a relative. “His father is heartbroken, and his mother is in hospital from shock,” he said.
He is among the first known cases of Jordanians joining Islamic State since the group declared a “caliphate” in June after dramatic territorial gains in Iraq and Syria.
His story points to the widening support for Islamic State among Jordanian Islamist fundamentalists inspired by its recent advances in countries that border Jordan to the east and north. With that support come new risks for a U.S. ally mostly unscathed by the Middle Eastern turmoil of recent years.
Jordan’s powerful intelligence services appear to be deploying their full range of tools to counter the threat. King Abdullah has said the country has never been better prepared to face the radical threat sweeping the region.
Islamic State’s gains have sparked a fierce debate among Jordanian Islamists from the ultra-orthodox Salafist movement on whether to back the group, whose brutality has been criticised even within radical Islamist circles.
But buoyed by territorial gains, Islamic State’s sympathisers appear to be winning the argument.
“Many youths have changed their distorted view of the Islamic State after they saw their actions on the ground, their achievements, and how the West has ganged up against it,” a well-known Jordanian militant told Reuters under the assumed name Ghareeb al-Akhwan al-Urduni.